Whether it’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Sarbanes Oxley, companies from medical devices manufacturers to financial services shops are struggling to stay abreast of compliance requirements thanks to a continuously evolving regulatory landscape.
Document management software, oftentimes referred to as enterprise content management (ECM) software, can be a highly effective tool for reducing the overall cost of compliance for a business. With the number of regulations and required audits on the rise, having a highly accessible system that keeps track of necessary documents and automates key workflows can help facilitate compliance requirements while protecting against legal risks.
In addition to providing greater document security than physical file cabinets and manual systems, a robust document management system establishes an audit trail of who accessed critical documents at what time, which helps promote compliance. Integrated records management capabilities also allow IT groups to manage retention and final disposal of stored documents according to predefined rules.
Research shows that compliance has long been a driver for companies to make investments in ECM technology. Although compliance traditionally was ranked as the primary impetus for ECM, AIIM’s State of the ECM Industry 2011 report marked a turning point, where compliance slipped to the number three business driver, behind efficiency improvements and business process optimization.
Frost & Sullivan projects the global ECM market will reach $8 billion by 2017, fueled by the technology’s proven ability to reduce costs, improve operational efficiencies and address critical compliance requirements. Yet in some industries like health care, Frost & Sullivan expects compliance requirements to accelerate even greater traction for ECM, among other technologies.
In a report published March 11, 2014 entitled, “Analysis of the Global Enterprise Content Management Market for Healthcare,” Frost & Sullivan positions ECM as an “essential” complementary technology to electronic medical record systems and hospital information systems and projects the global ECM market for healthcare to grow to $715.4 million in 2019, up from $285.4 million in 2012, which is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent.
With regulatory mandates becoming more complicated and non-compliance leaving companies at risk for penalties ranging from hefty fines to negative public relations or even management imprisonment, there’s just cause to consider ECM as a tool for aiding in compliance. When doing so, it will help to keep the following tips in mind:
1. Understand the corporate risk
Depending on the industry, different compliance regulations and different rules apply. Be sure IT is familiar with what’s relevant to your company and make sure to stay on top of changing requirements so they can be reflected in the ECM and related workflows.
2. Evaluate current policies and identify deficiencies
Simply implementing document management technology is not a cure-all for compliance woes. Companies need to regularly evaluate their processes to ensure they are in line with compliance directives and capitalize on the software to improve upon them.
3. Limit document access appropriately
Here’s where an ECM system can really shine. Be sure to take advantage of the software’s internal capabilities for limiting access to documents and other files based on role and responsibilities to aid in compliance initiatives.
4. Create a cross-functional team
Proper implementation of a document management system requires more than just IT, especially as it relates to compliance requirements. Experts suggest tapping into many areas of expertise, including legal, IT, records management, and finance to cast the software in the best light to fully address compliance requirements.
5. Communicate regularly
Even if the document management system is continuously updated to reflect the evolving regulatory landscape, the organization at large needs to stay informed. Be sure to detail any legal changes while conducting on-going training for the document management system helping employees to avoid any possible compliance infringements.
Regulatory compliance is an on-going issue for companies across industries and it’s not going away. Rather than attacking the problem as a one-shot project to mitigate risk, companies are better poised for success if they embrace a strategy that leverages ECM as means for compliance, but more importantly, as an opportunity for continual business process improvement.
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